Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Be Generous With Your Prayers


Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.

Hopefully, if you’ve been reading these devotions, you are becoming aware of the necessity and power of prayer in our lives and how that power is not limited to only those who are close to us. We pray to an infinite God with an infinite reach and when we join our prayers with those of Christians around the world God answers in places and within people we will not see or know until we are home in heaven. We know and are thankful that the effectiveness of our prayers do not lie in our ability to pray but in the power of the One we pray too, but we must be willing to offer up those prayers.

In Ephesians, chapter six, Paul tells us to put on the armor of God so we can be ready for the spiritual battle we all face in a world full of hate, temptation and brokenness. He closes this passage with a plea for us to pray at all times for all the saints (believers in Christ). Paul understood full well that none of us can make it through this world without prayer and that the most helpful attitude we can have is to be generous with our prayers.

My five year old daughter Katie went through a time where she wanted to give away everything, all of her toys and clothes. At first, I was happy to see such a generous spirit but when I asked her why she was doing it she said: “I know if I give away what I have you will buy me something new!” I had to explain to her the limits of her father’s wallet! However, for our Father in Heaven, this is exactly true. He blesses us with great things so we can use them wisely to help others. If we are good stewards and give according to His will then He will ensure our needs are met.

That is why it strikes me as odd that the one blessed gift we never have to worry about running out of
is the one we sometimes are so stingy with - Prayer. We often treat prayer as if it is something that is limited, something we have to save for. “I’d pray for this small need but what if I have a bigger need later on?”

What is worse is when we treat our prayer for others the same way. I once had a man tell me that his neighbor had asked him to pray for his children who were not living in God’s will. The man refused, saying he would not pray for them until they were living in God's will. I asked him, how could they live in God’s will without someone praying for them? The truth is we all need prayer, that is why Paul encourages us here to be generous in our prayers for others. Not just for him, but for all the saints.

Maybe you have a list of people you pray for regularly. It might have people from you church, your children, maybe your neighbors - depending on how well you know them and, let’s be honest, whether or not you like them. It is wonderful to have a list to remind you of those you know are in need of prayer, but don’t be afraid to go beyond your list. Pray for our leaders, whether you voted for them or not, pray for those who annoy you, pray for the girl who handed you lunch out the drive-thru window, the guy who took your favorite parking spot. When you are trying to figure out who needs prayer, it may be better to ask who doesn’t need prayer!

This week, try to think beyond your prayer list. Who are the people you encounter in your life that you can take a moment to pray for? Who are the “forgotten saints” in your life that you can spend more time praying for? This week, be generous in your prayers.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

You Can't Always Get What You Want...

Luke 18:1-8
1 He then told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not become discouraged: 2 “There was a judge in a certain town who didn’t fear God or respect man. 3 And a widow in that town kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’4 “For a while he was unwilling, but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps pestering me, I will give her justice, so she doesn’t wear me out by her persistent coming.’”6 Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night?Will He delay to help them? 8 I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find that faith on earth?”

Prayer is a blessed gift, it is the way we make it through the good times and the bad times in our life. As we’ve talked about before, prayer is more than a wish list. It is not the same as your shopping cart on Amazon, it is a conversation with the all mighty, sovereign, God of the universe. It is a time where we get to know Him better and where He helps us to grow to be more like His Son.

Here, Jesus is telling a parable, or using a story to illustrate a deeper truth. In this parable we have two characters; a judge and a widow. Normally you would expect the judge to represent God in this story since that was literally the job description given for a judge in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, however this was not a good judge. He did not respect man or God. Instead he serves as a contrast to God, a reminder of how good our God is, and how He hears our petitions.


The main point here is not the character of the uncaring judge it is the character of the widow, it is her persistence. In this story she had nowhere else to turn, no other resort, her only choice was to cry out to this uncaring judge. She knew he would not respond quickly, she knew she had no guarantee of being heard, and yet she did not give up, she did not lose hope. She continued to cry out believing her persistence would be rewarded.

Thankfully our hope does not rest in an uncaring judge but in our loving God.  Still, we must be persistent in our prayers. I was once asked by a lady if her constant prayers showed a lack of faith. She said “If I pray once and leave it then that shows I have a true faith but if I keep praying then it shows I don't trust God to answer my first prayer.” I led her to this parable and explained to her that it is by asking repeatedly and hopefully that we show we have true faith. That we are willing to not give up on a need.  Of course her response was “Why? Why must I pray persistently, why won't God just give me what I want now?”

Maybe He wants us to think through what we are asking first, maybe we are asking for something that He knows will not be good for us or will be better for us at a later time. Maybe He knows that we need to be prepared for whatever we are asking by spending more time with Him first.

You see even though God does want us to come to Him with our needs, and yes He is gracious and generous to supply them, our needs are not the mot important part of prayer. Prayer is first and foremost about God changing us rather than getting God to change His mind. Prayer is where we learn who God truly is and how He created us to be.  It is the time spent with Him that we truly need.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

I Surrender All


Luke 22:39-42 39 He went out and made His way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. 40 When He reached the place, He told them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 Then He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray, 42 “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me —nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”

A few weeks back we looked at a verse in 1st John. 1st John 5:14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  I wrote about how amazing it is that the wonderful, all powerful God of the universe hears us when we pray and how we can approach Him with confidence. However, there is a caveat John includes here: “Whenever we ask anything according to His will.
“Prayer presents us with a conundrum. I come to God with what I want, but at the same time, I must submit my will to what God wants. What if my desires and God’s plans don’t fit with each other? ~ Chris Talton
How do I respond when my desires are not met by my Heavenly Father?  Do I grumble, complain, become disobedient?  My five year old knows it is better for her to eat her veggies before she can have dessert but that doesn't mean she is very willing when I tell her that!  Her response to not having her desire met reflects her lack of maturity.  Does my response to My Heavenly Father show the same? 

Here in Luke 22, we find Jesus on the night He was arrested before the crucifixion.  He is in the Garden of Gethsemane and He knows full well what is coming.  He loves humanity He wants humanity to be saved but the fully man part of the Man God knows what that will take, and He understandably desires to not go through it. So He expresses His desire.  God the Son asks God the Father if there is any way He doesn't have to go through this.  Still He prays ... nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”  It is a striking prayer of submission that serves as a model for our walk with God. How can I develop the discipline to truly surrender my desires, my all, to God's will. 

Notice what it says before this in verse 39, He went out and made His way as usual ... This time of prayer is not described as something unusual for Jesus, yes the content is unique to this situation, but the fact that He regularly prayed is not.  The Gospels often tell us time and time again that Jesus spent time alone praying. He submitted to God the Father daily in the small things which equipped Him to surrender in the big things. 

Too often we are like Peter and say, don’t worry Lord, when the chips are down you can count on me. I will do exactly what you say when it counts. Then when we face the big decision to follow or not, we fail. When we face big temptation, we crumble. We do not realize that it is every second and every decision that counts. It is easier to submit to God on the big decisions in life when you have already built up the practice of submitting to Him on the small choices we make every day.

When I was looking up definitions of surrender I came across two interesting ones: Surrender: (1) Having no resistance, and (2) accepting reality. Think about that for a moment, when we surrender our desires to God we are not only saying I will stop resisting your Holy Spirit in my life but we are also admitting that what God desires is far better than what we desire. That is the reality of all creation.

Have you ever seen the Christian flag? Many churches have them in their sanctuary or flying outside the building. This is a non-political flag that is intended to represent all Christians around the world, regardless of denomination. It is a cross on a white flag of surrender. Are you surrendering to the cross today, more importantly, are you surrendering to the Man who hung on the cross today?

Jesus was always in full submission and surrender to the Father, we, on the other hand, are sinful people. We sing the great old hymn "I Surrender All" when we mean I surrender some. We hold onto our selfish desires, pray for those desires to be met, and then complain to God when He in His wisdom says He’s not giving us that.

When you bring your desires to God or come to a crossroads of decision, are you honestly praying “Father, Your will be done.”

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Thursday, October 25, 2018

What Is Praise?

Psalm 111: 1 & 9
1 Hallelujah! I will praise the Lord with all my heart in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
9 He has sent redemption to His people. He has ordained His covenant forever. His name is holy and awe-inspiring.


What is praise?  Why do we do it?  What do we even have to praise God for?  Praise isn’t something that is limited to just the good times when we like what God is doing. It is even more powerful when we praise Him in the dark times. Those times when we may not understand what is going on but we trust Him fully and believe in His will.

That is why we praise Him not just at Christmas or at Easter for the biggest miracles of all but everyday, even during the smallest intervention or darkest moments. Every day we should be thankful for what God has done and we should praise Him not only for what He has done but for who He is.

We hear the phrase Praise the Lord so many times that it has become common, a throw away. So common in fact we abbreviate it to just PTL because, you know “Praise The Lord” is just too long to say in our busy schedule. We throw the term around so much without any actual praise attached to it that I wonder if we really understand why we praise God or even what praise is.

The Christians author CS Lewis described praise this way: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”

In other words, we do not praise God because he needs to hear the praise, we praise God because doing so completes the love, the desire that we have for him. According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, our word praise comes from a Latin word meaning “value” or “price.” Thus, to give praise to God is to proclaim His merit or worth. It is one of humanity’s many responses to God’s revelation of Himself.

Many of the Old Testament praises we are familiar with were written by David and many of them were written in dark times when he was on the run, betrayed or had made a foolish choice. Yet David still praised God.  David praises God for many things he had - protection, blessings, etc, but he also praised God for things he had not yet received but trusted God for.  In verse nine he praises Him for His redemption.  We too live in a world that is often harsh and unforgiving and we too have received many gifts from God.  There is one gift that He has freely given to all if we will only accept it, redemption through His Son Jesus Christ.  The very redemption David and the other Old Testament writers were praising God in anticipation of we can praise Him for receiving today.

What more reason do we need to praise God! God sent his son to die for us! Jesus chose to come to earth and take upon himself the punishment that we deserved so that we could have a close, personal relationship with God yet again.

Whenever you read all of the beautiful praise of the Old Testament, all of David's glorious Psalms just remember we have what they were longing for! We have what that knew God would provide and were shouting in anticipation of – we have Jesus Christ!  That is why we praise.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Monday, October 15, 2018

Who Are You Talking To?

1st John 5:14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

Prayer is something we talk about, something we tell others to do and something that we know we need to do and for some reason it is something we assume everyone knows how to do. We lead someone to Christ and we ask them if they are ready to pray to accept Him as if they should just know what praying is. When new Christians face challenges we tell them to pray about it but do we stop to tell them how to pray?

The truth is there is a lot going on when we pray, not the least of which is that we are entering into the presence of our almighty God. I want you to notice what the Bible says in 1st John 5:14:  ... Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

Whoa! Stop the press - God hears us! Let that sink in for a moment. The amazing, wonderful God of the universe hears us when we pray!

Now I have never been asked to speak to a president or a ruler or anyone in authority anywhere but if I were, I would imagine that I would ponder what I was going to say and approach it in light of the weight my words would carry. That is if I am talking to a human leader. So why do I rush through my prayers with my heavenly Father? Why do I approach them haphazardly or, dare I say it, irresponsibly? Is it perhaps because I do not understand Who I am talking to?

Now don’t get me wrong, your prayers do not have to be planned out and God does not grade our prayers by our eloquence or formality. However that does not mean we should take these divine conversations lightly.

Prayer, so simple that a small child can do it beautifully, is so profound as to at times boggle our mind. It is when we join in prayer that the Holy Trinity allow us to join Him in intimate conversation. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all involved in our prayer. We pray to God the Father through God the Son with the help of God the Holy Spirit. It is through our prayers that we Hear Him and He transforms us.

Why would the sovereign God of the universe listen to you or to me? We can not possibly tell Him anything He doesn't already know or point out a solution He did not see. It’s simple. He listens because He wants to; because He loves us. There is nothing we can add to or take away from God and yet He has decided in his sovereignty to use our prayers as the tool by which He works.

He not only listens to us but God gives more weight and respect to our prayers than we often do! Think about that for a moment - God who does not need our prayers considers them more important than we who could not do anything without them!

Do we truly understand who we are praying to?

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Monday, October 8, 2018

Choosing To Rejoice


James 1:2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials,
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

We have all had moments in life where we thought we could not make it another second. Times where it seemed that God was so far away from us. You have heard me say before that when you don’t feel like praying to start off by praising and soon you will be praying like never before but we also know that is not always an easy thing for us to do. Is it even possible?

The Bible tells us to consider trials a joy, to praise God even when we are facing the darkest times of our life.  Is that really fair? Is it fair for God to expect us to praise Him when things are not easy, are not going well, or even going horribly, terribly wrong?

Yes, no matter what our current situation is, God is worthy of praise. Denying that fact will not make your situation easier, in fact when you deny that truth you are only making things harder on yourself. You are denying the One who can help you.

Part of the problem is we sometimes look at the Bible and think it is a perfect book about perfect people doing perfect things. Yes, it is a perfect book and the hero of the story is our perfect God and His perfect Son but the people in the Bible are not perfect. I’m talking about the ordinary, everyday people like Gideon, Peter, and Paul. God accomplished amazing things through them but they themselves were not perfect and did not always have everything go right or easy in their lives.

In other words, they knew problems, they knew the trap of worrying, and they knew the power of praise.

Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China once gave this excellent advice: "Let us give up our work, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into [God's] hand; and then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about."
Imagine that, if we give our all to God then we give him our worries and troubles as well.

Now no one is saying life is easy. No one is saying that we should ignore what is happening in our lives and wish it away. When the going gets tough the world tells us to bury our problems with distractions – like drugs, alcohol, work, etc. Despite what the world tells you, you still have to face the problems in your life but as a Christian, we can face them with faith.

I live in a real world, and I want a faith that deals with reality. Don’t you? I don’t want a faith that plays, "let’s pretend." I want a faith that can stand up to whatever the world has to give and still come out on top. The first thing we must realize is that whenever we face adversity we also face a choice. Do I respond with faith or do I wallow in despair? Do I put my trust in almighty God or do I put my trust in my own broken abilities? If you choose faith in God over faith in yourself then you will be able to choose to rejoice over despair.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church

Monday, October 1, 2018

Faith In Light Of The Facts


John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

As Christians we speak often of taking things on faith. It’s true that faith is a cornerstone of what we believe. There is a difference between faith and facts. For example it is a fact you are all staring at your devices, your eyeballs flickering across these words. It is also a fact that I have written this devotion, but it is only by faith that I believe that any of you are actually paying attention to these words I have typed!

Far too many times, though, we think that we must ignore facts to have faith. However, the truth is the facts of our world are explained and enhanced by our faith.  For example, look at what Jesus says in the gospel of John, chapter four verse six. John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

It is a fact upheld by both the Biblical & historical records, that Jesus Christ lived and died in first century Palestine. However it is by faith that I accept His statement that He is the way – the only way – the only truth and the only life. But here is where the crazy thing happens; I accept this statement by faith and then it is made a fact in my life through my relationship with Him.

Accepting Jesus Christ through faith, truly accepting Him, is not something you do and just walk away from it is a relationship that grows and develops. The faith that you have in Him is proven by the love He shows to you, and the work He does within you. Your faith becomes a fact in your life that changes your life.

The world around us asks “Does God Exist?” We know the answer to this question but we often shy away from proclaiming it or even addressing it. The world around us says there is no proof that God exists but by accepting Jesus through faith we become living proof that our living God is real.

When faith becomes a fact in your life, you begin to see how God is working around you, in you, and through you.  You know He is real not because someone has made a logical argument but because you have experienced Him, His wonderful love, and His amazing grace.

To discover more, visit Oak Grove Baptist Church